Question: What are my options for backing up my computer?

When it comes to computers, it’s not a matter of if it’s going to fail, but when.

With hard drives slowly being replaced by solid-state drives, the chances of losing your data is slowly diminishing — but it’s not completely gone.

Solid-state drives today have about one-tenth of a percent failure rate, versus its cousin the hard drive, which has a 4–6% failure rate. It’s pretty slim, but still possible.

Backups are a very important tool to be used to guard your data against failures within the machine and failures made by the users of these machines. As malicious activities — such as scams and viruses — escalate, so do the tactics used to deploy them and their level of sophistication.

Ransomware is a tool that is starting to be seen more and more. The ransomware will encrypt all of your data and programs and leave your machine in an unusable state. The ransomware then instructs you where to make payment if you want your data decrypted.

A good backup may be the quickest way to free yourself of ransomware. Backups play a crucial role in protecting yourself from data loss and time loss.

There are many online services available to consumers that allow you to back up your computer to the cloud. When you hear the word “cloud,” it’s safe to assume you can replace it with the word “server.”

When you back up to the cloud, your data is usually compressed, encrypted, and uploaded to a server on the internet, where it is stored for retrieval. Most online backup services provide you the option to keep multiple versions of files, so if you accidentally overwrite a file or want to go back to a particular version of a file on a particular date, you have that option.

Online backups are your go-to disaster-backup tool. This protects your data from theft, fire, or acts of Mother Nature. In the event your home or office is no longer standing, for whatever reason, your data is readily available to be downloaded from the internet. All this data will take some time to download, however.

For non-disaster recovery, I recommend restoring from an onsite backup. This usually entails an external hard drive connected to your computer. Some backup services allow you to back up to a local destination as well as to the cloud.

I always recommend having a local backup in the event you need to recover from a computer failure and you don’t want to wait eight hours to download all your data from the internet.

Backing up your files is a good first step for protecting yourself, but if you really want protection, then you will want to make sure you have a bare-metal backup. This backup provides a way for you to restore your operating system, programs, and files back to a specific point in time.

This is the backup you want if your computer loses a hard drive or you’re infected with the latest, greatest ransomware.

You can simply restore your machine from a bare-metal recovery, and you’re back up and running without having to reinstall the operating system and programs one at a time or without reconfiguring everything.

It’s all there, ready to be restored. It’s like going back in time.

Backups are definitely something any computer user needs to have in their line of defense. It will save you the loss of data and the anguish of lost time.


Mark Rinaudo has worked in IT in Shreveport, La., for more than 20 years. He is the owner and operator of Preferred Data Solutions. Email to submit a question for this column.

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